Love and Loss
Dumbledore had everyone quietly exit the car and instructed Harry and Madam Adonna to still keep their heads covered. The headmaster had yet to explain to the gathered crowds precisely why he had called them all to this particular location. The biggest reason why was that the older man himself hadn't known what they were going to find in their pursuit of Harry and his friends; only that doing so somehow involved a very important meeting concerning Harry Potter.
Before entering the cemetery's wrought-iron gates, Dumbledore pulled Harry aside.
"I know that we usually have our chats together after your current travail is completed," the headmaster went on seriously, "but I fear it must be done differently this time."
Harry wasn't exactly sure how to respond. The anger he had felt toward the professor following the Department of Mysteries debacle had mostly abated by this point, but Harry still couldn't help feeling a bit of resentment at having been essentially lied to by this man for nearly eighteen years. Trust was not something Harry ever gave easily, and for most of Harry's Hogwarts education, he had trusted the professor even more deeply than he'd trusted Sirius. It was strange to think his absolute loyalty to Dumbledore had been the one thing that called Fawkes to him in the Chamber of Secrets.
"In a rejoining such as this," continued the professor, "what you need to know is the memories and experiences you have held within you over the past two weeks as a spirit have no place in the flesh. I also believe that the time turner event will replace you directly after when you were abducted and the charm was severed. That would be the best place for you; alive and given a chance to continue your recovery in the past. Even if Voldemort thought to look for you then, whenever his initial absconding of you took place, measures have been taken to prevent him from disappearing with you again."
Staring hard at the professor, Harry felt a sinking sensation in his chest. "Are you saying…that…I'm not going to remember any of this? I won't remember being dead, I won't remember wandering…I won't remember…them, what they all did for me?" He gestured over toward his friends.
The headmaster glanced down for a moment, looked back at Harry and replied, "Nobody, save for you and Adonna, will remember anything of this. You both will still have impressions, emotions, overpowering moments of déjà vu, recurring dreams, and other such fleeting insight. What, precisely, you will remember I cannot say. Just try and hold above all else that this would not have been possible without your fellow students."
Harry already knew that was true. It was also the reason he felt such despondence over not being able to remember all they had accomplished in the name of his preservation. Bringing him back…back from quandary, back from death, back from dementors…Harry's fists clenched involuntarily.
"But I don't want to forget…" his voice faded despairingly, "they deserve so much more than that…I owe them…everything. Even if it means not going through with this, I don't want to go back to…to.…" his throat constricted and he swallowed.
The side of Dumbledore's mouth lifted slightly and he added understandingly, "Back to underestimating them?"
Blinking painfully, Harry nodded to the headmaster.
"I know it's hard to believe at this point, but I can honestly tell you that you won't, Harry. Just be aware ambivalence is something you should always be cautious over." The professor took a deep breath and explained, "You see, as we age, most of us exchange our youthful trust and blind devotion for something better. Or rather, something we mistakenly perceive as better—something called greater knowledge or higher intelligence. That couldn't be further from the truth, however."
Dumbledore clasped his hands behind his back, as if steadying himself. "I know you don't fully understand why yet, but when you died a week ago, a piece inside of many of the adult wizardfolk died with you—myself included. Not all of us had the influence of Voldemort upon us; it was something self-induced. So this…wandlighting ceremony was not only meant as a means to sway the Ministry's wrongful verdict by the rising tide of popular opinion. It was mostly intended as a way of…reminding everyone that Harry Potter can never die, as long as we remember him and what he inspired in each of us," he reached out a hand to place it on Harry's shoulder. "Scarcely did we know, it would literally be in part responsible for calling him back to us in a way we didn't dare hope."
The headmaster was right when he'd said Harry didn't fully understand why all this was happening. But Harry did know one thing as he spoke up softly, "But someone did dare hope…eight someones did." He recalled the earlier intimation of a smaller but no less significant gathering in this graveyard. Going against the Underage Decree and facing expulsion for him and everything…
Dumbledore smiled and gestured toward Harry's friends. "Yes, they did. It is every child's expectation, privilege, and birthright to believe in the impossible; fight what they feel is wrong and have faith in something they cannot prove or see. Sometimes, all they have to go on is by internal feelings only—gut instinct. I know you don't think so, but you still have that ability inside of you. Not everything you've experienced is as a direct result of someone else having chided you or thrown you into it."
Not able to discern what Dumbledore was referring to, Harry merely shook his head as an invitation for the elder man to continue.
"Can you think of nothing?" The headmaster inquired gently. "For nearly ten years, unbeknownst to you—and myself at the time—you knew nothing of your true heritage. In ways I will regret to the day I die, you were downtrodden and abused to the point of being treated more like a miscreant house pet instead of a human being," he went on severely. Then he shut his eyes for a bit and when he opened them, they were shiny with moisture. "Yet something inside of you refused to submit to their insistence of your inferiority. Not one single person ever told you that what you were being subjected to was wrong, but you knew it anyway. So you see, just as in the Department of Mysteries, it was your child-like heart which saved you."
Harry began to rethink his assessment of why Dumbledore had left him on the doorstep of 4 Privet Drive on 1st November of 1981. True, there was always the blood protective factor that went beyond magic. But it was the nature vs. nurture aspect in that environment which had instilled Harry with his true character. Had Harry lived with a wizard family, he most likely never would've been given the opportunity to build up that required mix of guts and gossamer, frost and inferno, silk and steel. Living like that had also given Harry an unexpected gift; the ability to have compassion on other people. If he'd been raised privileged, Harry was ninety-nine percent positive he would've ended up just like…Dudley. Or at least a self-centred arrogant berk like his father. His insides roiled and warped with those thoughts.
Still Harry couldn't deny his heritage of James's foundation. While Lily's spirit of protection lived on in him, so too did his father's grit. Ultimately, one could not have possibly expected to survive such a life-long onslaught as Harry had experienced without that unassailable Potter moxie. Dumbledore was right; Harry's heart had saved him—the same heart Lily and James had helped to sculpt.
The elder man watched the reactions flit across Harry's face and still went on, "You are stronger than you can possibly imagine. What makes you so remarkable is that you can inspire the same feeling within others. Your young friends never lost sight of that. Your particular gift includes the ability to not only inspire your friends, but every other person who is willing to listen. That kind of power only comes from within." Eyes twinkling, Dumbledore said, "Being young at heart isn't such a bad thing, you know."
Bad thing? Not at all. Harry still found it mostly incomprehensible that all of these people in the cemetery were there based purely on hope and philanthropic goodwill. It was yet another reason why he lamented the forthcoming loss of remembering all that had been shared with and for him. Suddenly, he was struck with an overwhelming need to speak to Ginny, as he remembered her and the Psychromancy explanation in the car. He had to say some things to her before he had to duly forget what was in his mind.
"I do have a question, Professor. How did you manage to get all of these people here in so short a time, from hundreds of miles away?"
The elder man smiled at him and replied, "Do you remember Hagrid's official title, from the first time he'd introduced himself to you? 'Keeper of the Keys?'" The headmaster gestured him over to several crates full of items; items that seemed oddly familiar somehow. Keeper of the Keys…Hagrid…
"Hagrid was Keeper of Portkeys? All of that junk around his hut.…" Harry saw the chipped mugs and other innumerable things that the half-giant always had lying or hanging around his dwelling place.
"It's our back up plan, in case Hogwarts ever needed a mass evacuation. The protective wards around the fortress would never allow Disapparating, even if the students could manage it. The wards are also why we needed to come here; we needed a specific piece of ground which was enchanted from Muggle sight yet could draw the magic from the night sky."
As Harry marveled at the ingeniousness of wizardfolk and Hogwarts, Dumbledore turned and led all of Harry's friends except for Ginny to a main part of the graveyard where everyone's parents had gathered. Fred and George led the rest of them to a sequestered corner of the cemetery to meet up with the remaining Weasleys and Hermione's family.
As Harry's group hadn't been able to fully explain what was going on yet, the first person Hermione spotted who looked like Harry was Donnie instead. The healer was being supported between Fred and George when Harry's bushy-haired best friend rushed over and peeked under Adonna's grey cloak.
"I can't believe it's true!" cried Hermione and threw her arms around Donnie. Ron and his family quickly chased up the young girl. Madam quickly overcame her initial startled reaction as she looked at Harry under his white hood. They raised their eyes at each other, realising that words were only going to confuse everyone at this point. Strangely enough, everybody else who had just arrived was struck speechless as well. Rather, the healer accepted Hermione's misplaced affection and embraced her in return, just as Harry would have done.
It made him ache inside to watch Adonna smile kindly back into Hermione's tear-stained face as she broke the silence and said, "While I appreciate this heartfelt welcome, I'm not the one you all seek." She looked back at Harry and motioned for him to push back his hood.
Everyone's faces quickly garnered looks of confusion as the twins told everyone, "This isn't Harry, it's Madam Adonna—the healer who helped him on the Knight Bus."
They began to wander over to Harry and looked at him in awe. Ron shook his head and said astonishedly, "Like Hermione said, I can't believe it's really you, mate."
Harry smiled softly in response and replied, "Don't tell me you two are actually agreeing on something!"
They all happily laughed with him, finally convinced that he was indeed the genuine article.
Hermione quickly and tearfully hugged Harry the same way she'd hugged Donnie. The one time Harry could remember Hermione ever doing something similar had been straight before his facing the Horntail at the first Triwizard Task. Ron started to pull back to give them some more room when Hermione disengaged herself, reached her arm back and grabbed the redhead, saying, "Don't be silly, Ron! Nobody's going to mind if you give your best mate a hug!" And she made him part of their circle as everyone smiled at them and waited for their turn to personally address Harry. Ron blushed and stood off to the side with Fred and George.
"I'm sorry that I thought you were dead," said Hermione guiltily, tearing up again, barely managing to look Harry in the eyes. He could feel the same emotion emanating from Ron, too. "I should have known that you couldn't be put down…" She leaned over and whispered in his ear, "I mean, you've been dead once before…and you…well, we changed that. Remember?"
Looking deep into Hermione's eyes, he was pulled into another shared memory with someone… He and his best friend were standing behind Harry and Sirius at the darkened, frozen lakeside at Hogwarts of two years ago. The dementors were converging over he and his godfather.… Harry watched himself scream with pain and collapse on the ground. "You died," he felt himself say with Hermione's voice, "both of you.…"
Their memory faded and Harry drew Hermione into his arms again. She was right…but she shouldn't feel guilty for not knowing about his false death. "Please don't think on it, Hermione. I know what it's like to be…influenced by…him. It wasn't your fault." He reached up his gloved hands and smoothed the tears off Hermione's face. She was surprised that he could do this, surprised that he'd borrowed her memory from her, but…she understood and was grateful. "Thank you," she said softly, smiling up at him.
Mrs. Weasley hugged him fiercely and quickly, apparently determined not to make a spectacle of herself. Harry could easily tell she was just as grateful that he wasn't dead as anyone else, if not more so. She also didn't want to embarrass Harry and simply said, "You should always consider yourself our seventh son. Welcome back to us, Harry."
Then she promptly marched over to Donnie, who had shrunk back a bit from the group out of politeness to Harry. Having been unable to mother Harry or Jamie the way she wanted to, Molly instead turned all of her attentions on the unwitting healer. It was impossible for Harry not to snigger as he watched Mrs. Weasley examine Madam's face, telling her how "peaky" she looked and making a fuss over her hair. Donnie's features contorted in self-righteous indignation at the invasion, but she still stayed quiet, mostly out of astonishment than anything else. The twins were doing all the protesting for her anyway. "Oi, mum…leave her alone, she's a healer.…"
Percy was the only one not there, out of obvious concern for his safety. As everybody finished their talking with Harry, he found himself looking at Ginny again. She was standing by Hermione when Harry walked up to the red-haired girl and asked her to follow him. Ginny suddenly got a very odd look on her face, but she nodded and they walked to a nearby copse of trees. Before Harry could even say anything, Ginny began speaking to him.
"Look, I'm very sorry. I suppose I was wrong about you being a ghost because of Sirius. It just…made sense to me. I was sort of…not paying attention to things properly, I guess. I mean…I didn't even know about this wandlighting ceremony thing.…" she faded away, truly apologetic.
For a moment, all Harry could do was look at her. She had totally misinterpreted his reasons for bringing her over here. He thought back to their brilliant conversation earlier; all Ginny had said regarding life, time, sarcasm.… Had Harry been a good and proper ghost, he knew that it would have been exactly as Ginny had said regarding his godfather. Guilt was an emotion that was plentiful amongst people who dared to care for the ones they loved. It had nearly eaten Harry alive…but now he was effectively being given a second chance.
"It's sort of morbidly funny that I can't even manage to die correctly," he told her, smiling half-heartedly, "but I've come to realise…that kind of oddity is typical for me. Either way, it doesn't really matter, does it? At the time, you didn't know, and I didn't know. The feelings are all the same. As you've said, that's something that will never change." He couldn't believe he was about to leave all of this again.…
Ginny contemplated him and replied, "Yes. It is, but I never thought that…I could…it was me that.…" She reached back and felt the back of her hair where the dried blood was. "Madam said it was 'a family member only' who could do that."
Nodding, Harry intended to explain a bit more but instead said, "That's why I wanted to speak to you. Dumbledore said," he paused and gritted his teeth for a bit, "he said that I'm…after rejoining, I won't hardly remember any of this. Nothing of what we've done tonight… nothing about the last ten days…"
Rather than feeling sorry for herself, Ginny was filled with compassion as she said, "That's good! Isn't it? I mean…all these terrible things that you went through, that…your double went through. I'm so glad you won't be able to recall it." She ran a hand over her eyes in pure relief. "I can't imagine what he—what you—must have gone through the past while."
He hadn't even thought about it that way before; the pair found themselves at an impasse. Harry didn't want to forget her sacrifice, and she wanted nothing more than for him to make it through this with as little damage as possible. It was like looking into a mirror, hearing her words and reading her thoughts. Had they really both changed so much over the past five years?
"I'd be lying if I said I…" this was very tough territory to tread, but Harry knew that honesty was the only thing acceptable for the current situation. "…I don't feel the same here like I did for Cho…but…" he trailed off again and tried not to blush. "It's totally different…stronger…but I'd be lying if I said I…I…wanted to kiss you right now." He turned hurriedly; sure he'd said far too much this time.
Ginny smiled kindly and replied, "Oh, that. Truly, I don't give too much credence to my feelings of…romantic propensity toward anyone in particular," now it was her turn to blush. Flexing her fingers she continued, "It's not like I expected you to haul off and snog me over the…Psychromancy thing, even if you could." She looked to the side and muttered, "Great goblins, did I just say that aloud?" Harry could sense her mortification and the truth behind her words.
"Adonna could have just meant that mum and dad are supposed to adopt you," Ginny smiled hugely as she looked up at him again. "I already feel so connected to you, it's something I'd happily welcome. I suspect my folks have discussed it already; they probably just don't want you to feel obligated, or like it's a consolation thing. They'd just want you to have a place you could call home."
Harry found himself grinning at her again. If anything could ever be called a home, it would be the Burrow. And if anybody could be called his surrogate family, it would be the Weasleys. They really were all remarkable people…but Ginny in particular.…
"How can I ever thank you?" Harry asked her.
She reached out and clasped his hands and answered, "There's nothing to thank, Harry. You saved me once, remember? And I never said anything to you about it. So…now we're even." Then she planted a kiss on top of each of his gloved hands.
As she let go, the headmaster approached them with everyone and explained the plan of how they were going to present the assembly with three Harrys.
"Although I do not wish to make a spectacle of any of you," said the elder professor, "no other way exists to accomplish the effect that we desire. Please, everyone follow me." The professor turned and everyone began to follow him, but Hagrid and Lupin hung back.
Harry turned around and asked, "Aren't you coming?"
The pair just shook their heads and Remus said, "People might be ready to welcome you, but remember that werewolves and half-giants are still basically being hunted or weeded out right now. Being employed at Hogwarts, even in the past, tends to give one a rather high profile," he added, a tad cynically.
That didn't matter to Harry a bit. Not one damn bit. Nobody should stop Lupin and Hagrid from being present if they wanted to be. All of the talk about staying true to one's self amounted to a gigantic pile of hippogriff manure if they left right now. Harry told them both as much, only using decidedly more colourful vocabulary. Looking at Dumbledore, the adults seemed to have agreed to give Harry's suggestion a go for now, even if it was to keep his rather profane spirits at bay. Harry had no idea it was largely because they heard a zapping sound crack the air around him as he'd displayed his disgust.
Just as they were about to leave again, Moody and Snape approached the group. Harry could tell Lupin was practically itching at the chance to interrogate Severus over the travelling satchel; a feeling Harry secretly happened to share.
The Potions master said to Dumbledore, "All is finished according to schedule and plan, Headmaster. No more or less than what was required."
Something about the way Snape said the word "required" instantly made a missing piece click into place in Harry's brain. He turned to Snape and exclaimed amazedly, "It was you! He's the stranger in the tearoom, Ginny! It's him who talked to us!"
The dour professor smirked at him condescendingly and answered, "I haven't the slightest idea what you're referring to. However, it is characteristic by one with the name of Potter to make up fanciful stories when it suits him." Snape then got a severe look to his features and ended, "Just remember, that which I don't know can kill you."
Something happened as Harry tried to read the carefully guarded thoughts surrounding Snape's mind. The professor's current treatment of Harry caused the young man to inadvertently go beyond the barrier of Snape's outer mental defences. Not knowing what was going on, Harry felt a sort of telepathic shudder the deeper he went into the potion master's mind. Thoughts flitted past him…memories…images…he was being irresistibly drawn to something…and then suddenly—
SLAM. Something had shut in front of Harry's face just as he was about to reach his intended goal.